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LOST: Surgeon Commander John Reid Hasker of the HMAS Sydney II

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posted on 2024-06-05, 18:59 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

Lost - Surgeon Commander John Reid Hasker of the HMAS Sydney 11.

The HMAS Sydney and its crew of 645 men were lost in 1941. As it happens in War, these men were lost to the nation and to their families with many dying before their parents. The HMAS Sydney Memorial website contains personal stories: present day relatives and friends recounting the stories of the grieving: their grief still lingers.

The HMAS Sydney story is different: there was much secrecy by the Australian Government in 1941 surrounding the demise of this ship. Many theories and controversies of the ship's fate persisted in the years following its loss.

We must remember it was not until 2008 when the wreck was found in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Western Australia. The Australian Government Inquiry was not finalised and presented to the Parliament until 1999. Many parents by then had passed on: dying with no closure to their sons' fate. Stories recount the expectation of a door opening and their lost loved ones walking into the room.

The psyche of human sadness requires "closure". It enables us to get finality as to "why, how, and when", for peace and healing. As the years past, we contemplate the anguish of these parents and remembering now, we are attempting to finalise their grief.

The sea battle between the Sydney and the German cruiser Kormoran off the coast of Western Australia on the 19-20 November 1941 was Australia's greatest military sea loss.

The HMAS Sydney (II) was the pride of the Australian Navy in World War Two. The crew from every Australian State and a small number of men from overseas were enthusiastic crew men, and proud to be on this fine ship.

The HMAS Sydney (I) had created a reputation defeating the German cruiser Emden in 1917. In 1928 Sydney (I) was sold for scrap and the HMS Phaeton, an English cruiser, was purchased by the Australian Government and renamed HMAS Sydney (II) in 1935. The crew were transferred from other the navy ships and bases. It was an honour to be on board. Some of these men were career navy men who had served on the HMAS Sydney (II) since it joined the Australian fleet. Others were mostly young men who enlisted in the Navy to serve their country in WW2.

One of the medical officers on the Sydney was John Reid Hasker. He was known as Jack. He has a story to be told.

Surgeon Commander John Reid Hasker was born in Ballarat Victoria Australia in 1900. His father Thomas Stephens Hasker was a bank manager with the Bank of New South Wales working in various towns across country Victoria. His mother Ellen Maud Hasker died young, and his father remarried her sister Ethel. Jack's father died in 1952 and his stepmother in 1964.
Jack attended Geelong Grammar School (1915-1918), Trinity College Melbourne, and graduated University of Melbourne with M.B.B.S. in 1925. Jack did his post-graduation residency at the Bendigo Hospital. He joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1928 as his career navy officer. He never married. He was one of two doctors on board the Sydney (II) on that fateful trip.
In 2008, when the wreck of the Sydney (II) was found deep in the Indian Ocean, John's present day second cousin, John Hasker from Melbourne was contacted by a newspaper asking about Jack and the Sydney. Family discussions about Surgeon Commander Hasker were few in the years after the War. One memory was hearing Jack's sister Ilma recalling a short visit to see her prior to leaving to go to Western Australia to join the ship. This would have been the last time he visited his family.

After the reporter's inquiry, there was an enthusiasm by John to research and discover the short life of Jack Reid Hasker. School and University records were found, and sporting interests revealed: particularly cricket, athletics, and Australian Football. His name can be found on the Honour Board at the Melbourne Cricket Club. (MCG).

The Australian Government organised a trip for relatives on the HMAS Manoora to the wreck site for an at-sea service: for many families this was closure. These men were gone many years before: into the ocean lying quietly in the depths together. Flowers were scattered in the water; prayers were said, and families swapped stories. John and his daughter were part of the 250 men and women who travelled to the site.

Remembering Jack's military commitment, one recalls another Hasker family story of valour and patriotism. In early 1850, another John Hasker was pursuing a business career working as an attorney clerk in Northumberland in England. He left his comfortable life to settle in Australia. He settled in the Goldfields town of Sandhurst, now Bendigo, in rural Victoria. He was a businessman, a banker, and an entrepreneur in the mining industry.

His father Thomas, from Newcastle on Tyne, was listed as a fish monger in the 1851 census. Thomas, in 1815, served with the British Dragoons at the Battle of Waterloo. He describes his involvement on the battlefield and his wounding by the enemy and the loss of his horse in battle in the book "The Camp and the Sanctuary; or the Power of Religion as Exemplified in the Army and the Church, a Memoir of T. Hasker." formerly of the 1st Dragoon Guards by James Everett. 1859.
Why his son left England we do not know. John certainly made his mark in Bendigo. On his death in 1898, newspaper obituaries described him as one of "Bendigo's old identities"... and "In life he was not one who courted public notice, and his disposition in this regard being well known."

John married in Bendigo 1856 to Elizabeth Stephens, and they had ten children, seven surviving him.
Thomas, from Newcastle on Tyne, the man who fought against Napoleon's army, set the precedence with his son venturing out to an unknown to establish an notable Australian family in the new land. Research into the Australian Hasker family today reveal many who have gained prominence in both the medical and business fields.

Surgeon Commander John Reid Hasker wrote no books or notes but left a myriad of stories told by others as a dedicated Navy Officer fighting for his country and who made the Ultimate Sacrifice in World War Two.


Item list and details

There are photos on the document of the HMAS Sydney II and the photo of John Reid Hasker included in the file below

Person the story/items relate to

Surgeon Commander John Reid Hasker

Person who shared the story/items

Dr Jean Douglas

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

I am a retired medical doctor researching Victoria Australia military doctors dying in WW1 and WW2.

Type of submission

Shared online via the Their Finest Hour project website.

Record ID